January 15, 2021 by Dean Bellefeuille


Primary caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s disease are often all too experienced with the difficulty of trying to take a quiet moment or two alone – to use the bathroom, get a brief shower, or even walk into another room without your loved one becoming anxious. Those diagnosed with dementia can experience increased fear when a member of their family is out of sight – a condition known as dementia shadowing. And the resulting behaviors can be extremely challenging to manage: crying, anger and meanness, or continuously asking where you are.

It may help to understand the reasons behind dementia shadowing. You are the senior’s safe place, the one who tends to make sense of a disorienting and confusing world, so when you are gone, life can appear frightening and uncertain. It’s important to realize dementia shadowing isn’t brought on by what you have done, but is merely a natural part of the development of Alzheimer’s.

As one of the top home care agencies in Syracuse, NY, our dementia care team provides the following strategies to help:

  • Extend the older adult’s circle of trust. Having another individual or two with you as you go through the older adult’s routines will help him/her start to trust a person aside from yourself. Slowly, once that trust is in place, the senior will become more at ease when you need to step away, knowing there’s still a lifeline readily available.
  • Record yourself. Make a video of yourself doing laundry or taking care of other daily chores, reading aloud, singing, etc. and try playing it for the older adult. This digital substitution may be all that’s needed to provide a feeling of comfort while she or he is separated from you.
  • Make use of distractions. Finding a soothing activity for the older adult to take part in could be enough of a distraction to permit you a brief period of respite. Try repetitive tasks, such as sorting nuts and bolts or silverware, folding napkins, or filing papers, or anything else that is safe and of interest to your senior loved one.
  • Prevent conflict. Your senior loved one could become combative or angry as a way to express his/her fear of being alone. No matter what he or she may say, it is important to try to avoid arguing with or correcting the senior loved one. An appropriate response is always to validate the senior’s feelings (“I can see you are feeling upset,”) and refocus the conversation to a much more pleasant topic (“Would you want to try a piece of the banana bread we made this morning?”)
  • Clarify the separation period. Because the sense of time can be lost in individuals with dementia, telling the senior you will just be away for a few minutes may not mean very much. Try using a standard wind-up kitchen timer for brief separations. Set the timer for the amount of time you’ll be away and ask your loved one to hold onto it, explaining that when it dings, you’ll be back.

Hiring the services of a skilled dementia care provider who comprehends the nuances of dementia and can put into practice creative strategies such as these, may help restore peace to both you and the senior you love. At Home Independent Living is known as one of the best home care agencies in Syracuse, NY, and our dementia caregivers are fully trained and here to fill in whenever you need a helping hand. Reach out to us at (315) 579-HOME (4663) for a free in-home consultation to learn more.